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Sir Antony Gormley at IMMA

antony gormley

Sir Antony Gormley is a British artist and sculptor who was born in London on the 30th August 1950. He is of Irish and German descent. Sir Antony has been sculpting since the 60’s. His work is inspired of the relationship of the human body and the space he lives in. His acclaimed for his public artworks, installations and sculptures that has been exhibited in almost ever country in the world.

Sir Antony was made an Officer of the British Empire in 1997 and knighted into the New Year’s Honours list in 2014. He has won various awards for his art and earned the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007, the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and the Premium Imperiale in 2013.

In an interview in 1984 in Newcastle UK, Sir Antony was speaking to artist Paul Kopecêk, in interview. They were discussing the visible changes and the shift in his art work at the time. Sir Antony had become more infused with the figures he was creating because of a “shift” within himself. In his sculptures the body is surrounded by nature and the cosmos; the body of the man faces an everyday question of where he fits in, why and how.

He was saying to Kopecêk, “I realise that work dealing only with objects is incapable of carrying the kind of feeling that I want. I am now trying to deal with what it feels like to be a human being. To make an image that in some way comes close to my states of mind. My body is my closest experience of matter and I use it both for convenience and decision. I can manipulate it both from within and from without. I want to recapture for sculpture an area of human experience which has been hidden for a while. It is to do with very simple things, what it feels like to look out and see, what it feels like to be cold or frightened, or what it feels like to be absolutely quiet and just be aware of the passage of air around your body. I want to talk about the relationship between the space outside and the space inside the body; all you have to do is close your eyes and you are in a world which is infinite. As infinite as the sky. That is very exciting. The figure work is much more subjective, but I hope that that subjectivity can be experience by everybody.”

antony gormley scultp

In his art you will notice that the human figures he has made has no faces, features or characteristics and this is often a question he is asked when talking about his work. Why is it that he has decided to make them without identities, so to speak?

In answer to this riddle, many art lovers and admirers of his work have asked, he said, “I don’t want the work to distract by suggesting a likeness or giving form to features. I want to make you aware of the whole. I want the work to deny the particular in itself so that it can be supplied by anyone who is looking at it. I want the work to function as a vehicle. Sculpture, for me, uses physical means to talk about the spirit, weight to talk about weightlessness, light to refer to darkness; a visual means to refer to things which cannot be seen. The fact that the works are cases that enclose space is important. They start with matter and end up as space. My work is silent. It is about states rather than actions. I hope that people will use its space for feeling.”

1984 was a very important transformable year for Gormley, “From 1984 I began to be interested in how you could use works as a lever to undermine the certainty of the spectator in his or her position in space. The first work is EDGE. Hung on the wall at bed height, it attempts to destabilize the normal projected subjective coordinates of front and back, left and right, up and down.  By being placed at the height of a normal sleeping person in a bed, it connects the reality of everyday with the state of the dream. EDGE was made in several versions in iron, to hover both from the floor and from the ceiling, having different effects on the viewer.” EDGE is from a series of works called Suspended and Gravity Works made during 1984 – 2012.

Sculptures like this one made in 1982 “Man, Rock and Planets”,  are timeless pieces. His work is infinite and it is also something he says he attempts to achieve -to preserve his work for future generations. He has several permanent public works, they include the Angel of the North in Gateshead, England (1994-1998); Another Place at Crosby Beach, England (2007); Inside Australia at Lake Ballard, Western Australia (2003); and Exposure in Lelystad, the Netherlands (2010).

In his lead works Three Ways made in 1981-1984, Gromley used his own body for the body cases to create Mould, Hole and Passage. These works identifies the three primary portals through which the male body relates to the wider world: the mouth, the anus and the penis. Land, Sea and Air 2 followed shortly after that, with: three body cases which attempts to associate a perception with a posture, and a posture with an element. Then came Three Calls that attempts to give sculptural form to the three levels of human activity: thought, speech and action.

“The reason I use my own body is that it’s very convenient, it’s very practical. I don’t have to force anybody to do something they don’t want to. I want to bear witness to my experience of the human condition not as an observer but as a participating experiencer and my body is the best tool, material, subject. The best case that I can argue is my own, because it’s the one that I’m working with everyday. You can argue that there is a narcissistic element in the project, but it is not the only thing to say. The issue is: how can you use the particularity of experience as a way of investigating a common condition? Since all human beings are embodied, to use the body that you have got as your laboratory is a good place to begin. And I would say that I’m still beginning. But since I began, I have also moulded hundreds of other people. When I was confident that I knew what I was doing and how I was going to use these moulds in an effective way, I felt I could ask others to do what I had done myself,” he said when asked by Art Critic Pierre Tillet in 2008 why he chooses to use his own body for these body cases.

On Tuesday the 8th December at 7-8pm there will be a Winter Lecture by Sir Antony Gormley called Making Space in the Chapel at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

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